As part of our lecture series on Art, Beauty and the Transcendent, a discussion took place around how we tend to value art only if it is either elite or popular. When we unconsciously accept this value system, most art becomes of little worth, being neither elite nor popular. Unless we are the best violinist or cellist in the world (how many cellists do you know apart from Yo-Yo Ma?) or have sold our artworks to millions (think Marvel MCU or Taylor Swift), our world places little value on artworks. The intention of the lecturer Mark Stephens, however, was to affirm the value of artmaking in all of its different forms, identifying artmaking and engaging with the beautiful, the true and the good (or even challenging these notions), as a distinctively human endeavour. Mark presented an argument that being artistic is something that is fundamental to who we are as creative beings created by a creative God.
Over the past few weeks our Year 12 students have been showcasing their major artworks in Visual Art, Design and Technology, Timber, Software Design and Development, English Extension 2, History Extension, Textiles, Dance, Music and Drama. In each of these different artforms our students have engaged with many different topics – some of them have created works of intense beauty, while others have presented works that explore those aspects of life that are definitely not beautiful or, to put it in another way, where beauty is absent. Some have been driven by a practical motivation – to either create something that addresses a particular need or to contribute further to our understanding of the world around us. Others have explored themes of deep and powerful emotion – sometimes disturbing and unsettling emotions, all of which engage with different aspects of our human experience.
I hope that many in our community were able to see these different artworks for they were, each in their own way, simply stunning, representing hundreds of hours of effort, planning and development. I could not consider them as being of any lesser value simply because they did not meet the criteria of being elite or popular. To me, each artwork on display was a testament to the creativity, imagination and unique experience of each of our students. Together, they have given us a reminder of just how rich and varied our collective human experience is – how the world around us is an admixture of beauty and horror, of good and evil, darkness and light. As such, there can be no quantitative way of assessing their value– there is no price tag that can be affixed to each artwork, nor some calculation of possible long-term return should one purchase these artworks as an investment or hedge against inflation. They are, quite literally, priceless.
I want to take this opportunity to congratulate all our Year 12 students who have spent many hours on their major works. The work of your hands has taken everyday materials such as words, paint, metal, timber, data, sound and movement and you have used these materials to create something new, something that takes us beyond our own experience to see the world anew, drawing from us a reaction that is immediate, subjective and intensely personal. And that is something that money just can’t buy.
Dr James Pietsch